SHAPESHIFTERS CONTAIN THE SUB-RACE OF SKINWALKERS AND IN TURN THEY INCLUDE SUCH SUB-RACES AS SELKIE AND SWAN MAIDENS.
A shape-shifter that assumes the form of a wolf is NOT a were-wolf. Shapeshifters are NOT Lycanthrope ruled by the moon. Any shape-shifting character that resembles a Lycanthrope in power and strength will not be accepted. It is very important in our setting that shape-shifters are differentiated from the monstrous bipedal beast that is a Lycanthrope. Lycanthrope get great strength at a great cost.
It is up to you to define the capabilities of your shapeshifter. It is not possible for one to take on any shape they desire. Shapeshifters that can form themselves into nearly anything they desire have themes to their changes. For instance, everything they turn into is colored yellow or made out of stone, etc, etc.
WHAT IS A SHAPE-SHIFTER?
We’ll start by defining what they absolutely are NOT:
Shape-shifters have no relation to Lycanthropes
Shape-shifters are NOT influenced by the moon.
They DO NOT turn into a massive humanoid amalgam of beast and man.
They are NOT vicious monsters bent on tearing apart people and passing on their virus.
Their strength does NOT EVER exceed that of the creature they turn into.
Shape-shifters DO NOT possess any of the traits of that which they transform into while in their ’normal’ (Humanoid) form, UNLESS they have ONLY one form they turn into. See CLASSIC SHAPESHIFTER below.
Shape-shifters, to put it plainly, are magical beings that can change their form into something else and remain conscious and in control. These can be animals, in-animate objects, or raw elements and their forms are either ‘fixed’ or ‘impermanent’ meaning that they are not unlike Dopplegangers.
Fixed forms are permanent things that the shapeshifter turns into, such as a specific type of cat, a raven, or the like. Impermanent forms are demonstrated by a shapeshifter copying the form of something around them, looking like a chair or someone else, the shift only able to be repeated with refreshment of memory of the object/person.
Note: Shifters that take on other people/races do NOT take on the abilities of that person or race. They merely look like them.
Shape-shifters are magical. When they change, it is nothing like the biological metamorphosis that a Lycanthrope endures. Often their clothes are transformed as well, even some of their possessions, and the whole process it usually very quick and can be done several times a day. Just how many is up to you but we prefer the amount to be no more than three to four times per shape, which is quite a bit.
TIME OF A TRANSFORMATION
To define the length of time that a ‘shape-shifter’ can maintain one of these forms we have two golden rules that you should follow:
1. The more forms a shape-shifter can take, the less time they can hold those forms. We are quite generous when these forms do not exceed three. Four or more and we expect the time to significantly drop.
2. If your shape-shifter requires an ‘external element or component’ to change their form we will allow the time for the shift to last longer. An example of this would be your classic ‘skin-walker’ (see below). These shamanistic characters can take the form an animal so long as they wear it’s pelt. This would mean your character has to carry around pelts which is a ‘disadvantage’ that we would allow to be off-set by longer transformations. A magical item isn’t so much a hardship as pelts, but if the person requires a different object for every form they could benefit from this rule.
THE ANIMAL SHAPESHIFTERS
They can change their form into a NORMAL animal. They cannot assume the form of mythic creatures and nothing that exceeds the size of a rhinoceros.
They can turn into inanimate objects, such as a chair, or post. Nothing with any moving parts. Only solid objects which will feel close to the original item with some subtle differences. Obviously if they turn into a lamp post, the light will not go on. They are not mobile in these forms, and they are limited into what they change into because they must be within twenty pounds of their original body mass either way. This means that a 200lb man can transform into something no heavier than 200lbs and no lighter than 180lbs. They CANNOT turn into something as small as a pen or a weapon, such as a knife or sword.
This variety can turn into raw elements but like the ‘in-animate’ variety above have to maintain their mass within 20lbs of their original weight. Often they specialize only in one element but it is not out of the question to change into others.
They can turn into anything associated with an element. They can become a wall of fire, an ice sculpture, pure water, a whirlwind. They will still have some kind of form, especially if they are mobile. Naturally if a shapeshifter who becomes fire is dowsed with water, they could die.
THE CLASSIC SHAPESHIFTER (One form)
If your shapeshifter only has ONE FORM then a special relationship is ‘formed’ between the person and that which they change into. Some of the elements of that ‘shape’ will transfer to their ‘normal’ everyday self. It could be something as obvious as a man who can turn into stone being a little stronger and more durable than usual. A person who turns into an eagle, may have better than average eye-sight, while a wolf shifter gains heightened senses and so on. This is a perk for those who decide to take on only ONE specific shape. These shifters can also keep their form the longest as the second form becomes a true part of their nature.
You will notice that not many limitations have been set. That’s because this is a mature writing site and we trust that anyone who wishes to participate here respects the fact that we do not cater to unrealistic characters or the ultra-powerful. We do not want to stifle your creativity and look forward to reading your creation but if they are merely a mishmash of convenient abilities they will most likely have to be re-written.
THE SKINWALKER (Shapeshifter sub-race)
Skinwalkers were the witches or shaman of Southwestern tribes before the Nevus. Individuals that tended to shun all society and who were in tune with spirits, particularly animal spirits. After the Nevus event these attuned individuals developed a unique shapeshifter ability, they can alter their shapes at will to assume the characteristics of certain animals. These shaman are the only ones that turned into Skinwalkers during the Nevus event. They usually stem from the Navajo people, but deeply spiritual shaman and witches from other Indigenous Tribal Peoples have also been found to have changed. While many changes caused by the Resonance were spontaneously applied at random, the Skinwalker ability has only transferred to these indigenous heritage with this deep shaman link. There are two other well know skinwalker types — The Selkie and Swan Maidens. (See below). These sub-races of the skinwalker may possess different traits and abilities.
Skinwalkers need the pelt or skin of the animal in it's ENTIRETY. A 'rabbit's foot' is not going to allow them to take on the form of a rabbit, feathers of a bird are not enough to turn into a raven. They need the whole skin — and there is nothing magical at all about these skins. They are just normal pelts and obtaining them will not give a 'non-skinwalker' the power to transform. A skinwalker CANNOT make skins for all their friends so they can hangout as animals.
The skin can be fresh, or a preserved pelt, it doesn't matter. It just has to be intact. By placing it against their body the Skinwalker merges with the skin and becomes that animal for as long as they may desire. A Skinwalker could live out their entire life in the form of an animal if they chose. They have the ability to not only physically change, but psychologically as well. This means they truly understand what it means to become an animal. It is this trait that transfers some of these 'animal traits' to a Skinwalker while they are in Human form.
A Skinwalker while Human, is quicker (3 times as fast as your average Human) and stronger (Twice or Thrice as strong as a normal Human). They also possess heightened senses and possess a form of Animal Empathy that allows them to sense an animal's nature and 'empathize' with an animal so as to direct it, but in no way does this allow them to command an animal to perform tasks beyond it's intelligence. They are not Aquaman!
As Shamans*, Skinwalkers possess the ability to meld their minds with animal. This is an invasive act but a skinwalker knows how to establish trust and once allowed into the animal's mind they can hitch a ride and see what it see's. They cannot control the animal but can influence the direction it travels so long as the animal does not feel that direction to be a threat to it's life. During this process the skinwalker goes into a meditative trance and can maintain the connection for as long as they can go without food and water, or until some event would startle the animal and break the connection.
Skinwalkers are highly attuned with nature. They are able to interpret scents and damage to foliage so well that they can read a path like a book (within reason of course). They also possess the magical ability to conceal their scent and move through foliage without disturbing it, nor leave tracks for a full five minutes. They can do this every few hours, which makes them virtually impossible to track down. A Skinwalker can even disguise the heat of their body and blend into their environment, being virtually invisible so long as they remain steady. They can do this up to five times a day.
Other than the abilities mentioned, a Skinwalker will possess NO OTHER powers. You are welcome to elaborate on what has been provided, such as adding some details, but no significant alterations are allowed.
PELTS / SKINS
We shouldn't have to mention that the pelts and skins of larger animals can be quite cumbersome. It would be very unrealistic for someone to depict that they've stuffed a bear skin in their pack-back or that they wear a wolf-skin under their coat and no one notices. Part of being a skinwalker is dealing with the disadvantage of requiring pelts as a component for their magic.
* Shaman - Skinwalkers were not "average" Native Americans before the Nevus event. They were shaman prior to the Resonance and have continued to maintain their deep spirituality after their change which is perhaps what has given them this unique shifting ability. Their spirituality dictates many of the choices they have made or will make in the future. Shaman loosely translates to 'priest' and that is how they have lived their lives before and after their change, a spiritual priest in tune with nature, often a loner in life.
*Obtaining a 'skin' often does not involve 'killing' an animal, not in the same way that a hunter might. These skins are obtained in a very spiritual manner which is up the imagination of the writer. For instance, they can be the noble sacrifice of an older animal. They can be skins that have been passed down, etc.
THE SELKIE (Skinwalker sub-race)
These are a mythic people indigenous to the coastal areas of Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. They use seal-skins to transform into seals and have a strong relationship with the sea. They possess all the abilities of a classic skinwalker except they are more specific to seals and sea mammals in general. Anyone creating a Selkie will have a background connected to a coastal people where there are large populations of seals. Selkies may also have an extra power or two pertaining to the sea, but always bear in mind that the powers of 'skinwalkers' are always 'shamanistic' in nature.
*Selkie are unnaturally strong.
SWAN MAIDENS (Skinwalker sub-race)
Born of folk-tale, these skinwalkers are only women and they use a swan skin to transform. Members are welcome to empower them as they wish but bear in mind we will follow, to a degree, the actual myth and Swan Maidens are obviously NOT very powerful creatures. If one is looking to create a stronger character they are better off just making a normal skinwalker. Modifying this race too much will just end up bastardizing it.